Discourse / Editorials / February 4, 2010

Books, shmooks: Senior lit majors just watch the movie instead

Greetings from Senior Seminar! My fellow English literature students of the class of 2010 and I have been busy all term discussing critical theories, paradigms, binary oppositions, and false dichotomies in preparation for the symposium that will formally conclude our undergraduate literary study. It has thus far been an exhilarating intellectual experience, and this senior is certainly looking forward to the symposium that will show off all of our great literature-analyzin’ skills. Take this column as the initial invitation—come to the Alumni Room in Old Main sometime near the end of term to hear our presentations! Since I forget when the symposium actually is and don’t have my syllabus near me, I can’t give you the date, but I can certainly give you the place. And the time—it’s in the evening. I think it’s a black tie event as well, so go iron that bowtie you’ve been dying to wear all year.

The subject of the seminar was a little controversial this year—we found out over winter break that we would be studying the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Film for a literature class? you say, your voice rising in surprise and wonder. But that’s not reading! Ah, dear reader, but it is, for it turns out the world of cinema is replete with the same themes, theories, and, yes, paradigms that we explicate and argue about when we flip open our Norton anthologies. Some of my classmates may have been dismayed when they learned we were going to study film, but I can confidently say that I was elated. Sure, I enjoy reading, but watching movies is much less time-consuming.

That is not to say, of course, that discussing a movie is “easier” than discussing a book. The first two films we watched were Shadow of a Doubt and Strangers on a Train, and the ensuing discussions revolved around Freudian theories of the uncanny and Lacanian theories of psychoanalysis and mirror-image this and diegetic that. But I don’t want to sound too flippant (or too obscure)—it is all pretty fascinating stuff, and even if you’re not given to formal critical analysis, the symposium should prove quite interesting to any film enthusiast. This dual critical and popular appeal is, in fact, one of Hitchcock’s most intriguing mysteries. After moving from England to Hollywood in 1939, he quickly made a name for himself among critics and the movie-going public alike, and his movies remain popular today. They are also thematically complex and technically ingenious, which is how they continue to attract the eyes of literary theorists who clamor to make their feminist or psychoanalytic or Marxist case for analysis.

Come symposium time, we seniors will present our own theories of Hitchcock analysis. We will be discussing some of the most brilliant movies ever made, including Rear Window and Psycho. We will be dressed nicely, and we will be fielding any questions that you care to direct our way (provided they’re about Hitchcock, of course). So maybe I, or one of my classmates, will write another “Greetings from Senior Seminar” column for you in the meantime, but if not, I’ll tell you now that you should come. There’ll be lots of hot blondes.

Note: The actual dates of the symposium are March 8 and 9, probably at 7 or 8 p.m. Mark your calendar now!

Email Maddie at mfreeman@knox.edu

Maddie Freeman

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